Time: Steele Pledges 'To Temper the Party's Rigidity and Truculence'

Time magazine acknowledged that Michael Steele’s election as chairman of the Republican National Committee "makes history," but their story quoted only social and political liberals for analysis. Steven Gray insisted: "In a TIME interview during that [post-election] period, Steele praised Obama's election as America's first black President. He made clear that as RNC chairman, he would move to temper the party's rigidity and truculence." Truculence? Here's the dictionary definition:  

1. feeling or displaying ferocity: CRUEL, SAVAGE2. DEADLY, DESTRUCTIVE3. scathingly harsh; VITRIOLIC4. aggressively self-assertive: BELLIGERENT

Steele fans and foes alike in the GOP would love to see what Steele actually said on this front, since the Time writer described it so colorfully. (Doesn't it sound like the Time writer's thinking of....Rush Limbaugh?) Then Gray turned to how Steele could display less "rigidity" on snuffing out the lives of the unborn:

The former Maryland lieutenant governor's selection is an acknowledgment by the party's leadership that the GOP must quickly recast itself if it is to remain relevant to an increasingly diverse electorate no longer moved by divisive social issues."He understands the importance of having candidates who appeal to different constituencies without promoting a monolithic agenda," says Kellie Ferguson, executive director of Republican Majority for Choice, a Washington-based group of moderate conservatives. (A Roman Catholic, Steele personally opposes abortion.) She added, "Hopefully, he will have an open door with social moderates and conservative Republicans and bring everyone together under what will truly be a big tent."

Talk about rigidity: the liberal media hasn't stopped chiding the Republicans to drop their pro-life platform for decades now, no matter how tremendously counter-factual the idea of a "Republican majority for choice" is. Democrats have made compromises in supporting some allegedly pro-life candidates like Sen. Bob Casey, but Time never wrote an article insisting Howard Dean needed to get past the party's "rigidity" on "divisive social issues." Time's Gray insisted the Republicans were "desperate for moderation" and rejected the Limbaugh candidates:

At one point, one of Steele's rivals was Ken Blackwell, an African American and a former Ohio secretary of state, who was widely viewed as too dogmatically conservative to head a party desperate for moderation and who eventually threw his support behind Steele. The original slate of candidates included Tennessee GOP chairman Chip Saltsman, who had distributed a CD containing a song titled "Barack the Magic Negro."

Time wasn't about to explain the liberal-media origins of the "magic Negro" phrase, or explain it was a parody of Al Sharpton's disdain for Obama's "post-racial" style. The sentence about Steele's opposition to "rigidity and truculence" didn't sound moderate, unless it's moderate to want to win the votes of ethnic groups:

In particular, one of the models he pointed to was Ronald Reagan, who, he said, "made it cool to be a conservative." He said he would make clear to local party leaders that "if you want to be chairman under my leadership, don't think this is a country-club atmosphere where we sit around drinking wine and eating cheese and talking amongst ourselves. If you don't want to drill down and build coalitions in minority communities, then you have to give that seat to someone who does."

Time's writer in no way acknowledged that this has been a GOP mantra for decades, or notice especially that RNC chairman Ken Mehlman pledged four years ago he would push hard to win over minorities. Then came the media's, ahem, rigid and truculent coverage of Hurricane Katrina. It could be argued that the media's coverage of racial matters seemed tailor-made to insure Mehlman failed at attempts to make progress with minority voters. Gray wrapped up the article by citing more liberal experts on black politics:

Certainly, among his biggest challenges will be redefining what it means to be a Republican and dealing with the question of whether a viable GOP can include white Southern conservatives, who have been a vocal force since the 1960s, as well as fiscal conservatives, libertarians and those who adhere to a more hawkish role in the world for the U.S. "The only thing that might stand in the way of Steele is that he's not conservative enough," says David Bositis, an analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank that studies black issues.

This kind of analysis was standard for liberal-media reports, that the GOP was too white, too Southern, and too conservative. Obviously, a majority party isn't a question of whether it "can include" white Southern conservatives, but whether it can include all kinds of conservatives and libertarians, and then reach out for the independent voter. Then Gray's analysis grew increasingly strange, as he insisted the GOP (under John McCain?) overemphasized social issues and underemphasized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

He inherits a party that has become largely dormant in huge swaths of the country, including New England. The party's recent emphasis on divisive issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research has proved out of touch with voters more concerned with the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of its immigration policies have alienated Latinos, a particularly crucial group in battleground states like Florida and Colorado. Already, Steele has indicated an interest in reaching out to black voters. But that won't be easy, considering the GOP's recent history. For example, only one major Republican candidate — Mike Huckabee — showed up at a candidates forum at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore during the last campaign. There hasn't been a single black Republican in Congress in years, and the party has struggled to elect even local candidates who are black. Against that backdrop, and particularly given Obama's support among blacks and Latinos, "merely putting Steele in a high-profile position won't change things overnight," says Daryl Harris, a political-science professor at Howard University.

The "candidates forum" Time refers to was a PBS debate moderated by hostile liberal Tavis Smiley. Steele did work with Smiley to insure Republican attendance, and joined Smiley in denouncing the Republicans who did not attend. As usual, when noticing the lack of black Republicans elected to Congress, media outlets like Time don't explain that they didn't give Steele or Blackwell or Pennyslvania's Lynn Swann the time of day when they were running for statewide office in 2006. In the August 14, 2006 issue of Time, these three candidates drew a single paragraph in a sidebar story -- headlined "Here Comes the New Wave of Barack Obamas." The story this sidebar was attached to was a long profile of black Democratic candidate Harold Ford Jr., hopefully headlined "Why Harold Ford Has a Shot." In the last weeks before the 2006 election, Time ran a huge cover story on...Barack Obama.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis